Fabric Painting Demo Using Inktense Pencils

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What Art Supplies You'll Need

Fabric painting with Inktense watersoluble ink pencils
To turn Inktense watersoluble ink pencils into permanent fabric paint, you'll need some fabric painting medium. Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Inktense are a range of water soluble pencils made by Derwent that contain ink rather than watercolor. Unlike watercolor pencils, when the ink has dried again it won't lift off easily when you reset it. To use Inktense pencils for a fabric painting project which you think you might wash at some stage, work with fabric painting medium rather than just water to make the ink permanent.

You'll need some Inktense pencils, a pencil sharpener, a stiff-haired brush, fabric painting medium or fixative, a tube of blue acrylic paint, and some 100 percent cotton fabric or lightweight canvas. A tight-weave fabric is easier to paint on than a rough one. Prewash the fabric you'll be painting on to remove any coating that may be on the fabric. Yes, it's a pain to do, but not as painful as to discover your paint doesn't want to stick to a section of the fabric! Once it's dried, you're ready to start painting... (I don't usually iron the fabric as the creases come out when the fabric gets wet as you paint anyway.)

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Applying Inktense to Fabric

Fabric painting with Inktense watersoluble ink pencils
I started by scribbling in blues for what would be sky behind the tree. (The pink on the fabric in the photo is color on the board beneath the wet fabric showing through.). Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Even though you're painting on fabric, you use Inktense pencils as you would normally. You can draw directly with an Inktense pencil onto the fabric or you can lift color off the pencil with a brush and then paint the color onto to fabric. The difference is in what you're painting on (fabric rather than paper) not how you use them. (See: How to Use Watercolor Pencils ).

If the tip of the pencil is wet, you'll get a fatter or broader mark than if the tip is dry. (Try dipping it directly into some water or fabric painting medium.) If the fabric is wet and you move the pencil across it slowly, the mark you get will also be fatter. For a thin mark, sharpen the pencil to a point and move quickly.

You can soften the lines by spreading the Inktense ink around on the fabric with a stiff-haired brush dipped in a bit of fabric medium. Depending on how hard you scrub with the brush, more or less of the line will dissolve.

For the painting of a tree, I used two different blue Inktense pencils to scribble random lines in what would be the sky area. (The pinkish color is show-through from the board beneath the wet fabric.) Using one in each hand helps prevent me being precious about where a particular line is going, to keep it more random. Doing this does get easier with practice; initially you may find it easier to echo the line you're drawing with your dominant hand with your non-dominant one.

Once you've got the sky laid down, it's time to move onto painting the tree...

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Painting the Tree

Fabric painting with Inktense watersoluble ink pencils
Making corrections is tricky as it's hard to lift off color or overpaint it except with darker colors. If in doubt about what you're going to do, sketch out how you visualize the tree on a piece of paper before you start. Then be bold, not tentative. Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

The tree I'd visualized painting wasn't any specific tree, but something from my imagination based on my studies of trees for other paintings. Essentially: a large tree trunk tapering towards the top where it then divides into a few branches.

I placed the trunk towards the left rather than the middle, following the Rule of Thirds. One of the tree branches stretches all the way across to the right and the base of the trunk extends a little way. This way the tree feels like it fills the composition, or claims the whole space for its own.

I used two brown Inktense pencils, a black and a dark green. I used the black to put down the outline of the tree, the big branches, and for shadow on the trunk. Then I filled this in loosely with the two browns, and scribbled some green in the branches for leaves. Notice how the scribbled blue lines done earlier for the sky add to the sense of texture in the branches.

Once I was content with the basic tree, I then painted the background...

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Painting the Background

Fabric painting with Inktense watersoluble ink pencils
I used some blue to paint a 'frame' around the composition. Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

As I wanted to paint a large area of blue, I swapped from Inktense pencils to a tube of blue acrylic paint. The fabric-painting medium I was using is formulated to be used 1:1 medium to paint. (It then needs to be heat set with an iron when dried.) I brushed the medium directly onto the fabric, squeezed out a little acrylic paint onto this, then spread this around with a brush. To help spread the paint, I occasionally dipped the brush into the fabric-painting medium and/or some clean water.

I used some of the blue to create a painted frame along the three of the edges edges because I felt the tree was floating a bit on the fabric. The blue in place, I added some greenery at the base of the tree and along the bottom edge (using a dark and light green), before adding some loose red and blue flowers. You'll see that not every flower head is attached to a green stalk as my intention wasn't perfect realism, but more an impression of realism.

Next I would refine what I'd done to finish the fabric painting...

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Finishing the Tree Fabric Painting

Fabric painting with Inktense watersoluble ink pencils
The dried painting, as finished as it's going to get. Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

I extended the light green up under the branches of the tree with an Inktense pencil to give the feeling of some vegetation growing. Next I was going to add some dark green into this area, as well as soften the way the blue faded into it. But clumsiness intervened!

I hadn't poured a little of the medium into a smaller container when I started because I was "just quickly" going to try the Inktense/fabric painting medium technique. But then I got carried away painting. Next thing I knew, I bumped the container of fabric painting medium, it fell off the table, and it all spilled out. By the time I'd cleaned up the mess with oodles of paper towel, and got it off my hands, the medium on the piece of fabric itself had all dried.

I did have some Golden fabric painting medium (the spilt one was Matisse Derivan), but I decided to call it quits. Next time around my first step will be to pour some fabric painting medium into a smaller container!